“An increase in school enrolments from 40 to 60 percent is applauded as a success, not recorded as a violation of the right to education of the 40 percent of children who remain excluded from school.”-Katarina Tomasevski, former United Nations special rapporteur on the right to education, 2006.
Education is at the center of building human capital. The quality and quantity of education that the individuals receive play a major role in the kinds of jobs they are able to hold and the amount they are able to earn. Greater number of enrolments in all types of schools will generate skilled and trained employees for the future. The latest World Bank research shows that the productivity of 56 percent of the world’s children will be less than half of what it could be if they did not enjoy complete education and full health. According to the reports by UNICEF, about 264 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to complete schooling. This points out the “education deficit” in the world. Every child has a right to education and it is the duty of the authorities to provide infrastructure for the same.
What is the recent situation?: In recent years, many countries have been part of international and regional political drives to ensure that all children have access to complete education. Many institutions, including the government, are involved in improving the quality of education. “No child left behind Act” of 2001 has set federal guidelines to ensure students get a high-quality education. States enjoy flexibility on how to allocate the education funds. The Act also necessitates the states to conform to the standards of testing. If such standards are not met, the States may lose funding by state and local governments. Yet despite these drives and other advances, UN and global policy experts state that the global progress in education has “left behind” millions of children and young people.
In the 2019 Budget, the Education sector gets ₹94,854 crore, with a focus on the research aspect. This marks a higher provision to the education sector than the last year 2018 by almost 10,000 crores. Of the total ₹94,854 crore education budget, ₹56,537 crore has been allocated to the school sector and ₹38,317 crore to the higher education. Nirmala Sitharaman has also proposed to establish a National Research Foundation to fund and promote research. Sectors with the highest allocated budgets include Defence, Subsidies whereas Education remains one of the least valued at 3.5 percent. An amount of 8.5 lakh crore has been set aside to spend on improvements in education but the question here is, is it enough?
With spending on the defense sector once again dominating the share it feels like other sectors are suffering because of this difference. Today India ranks 124th in literacy rates as per several sources and given the education sector budget we might not see a rise in rankings this year. In fact, education spending was 4.4 percent in 1999 and it has now dropped to this value of 3.5 percent which means a steady decline in a country that is supposed to be focusing on making its labour skilled to have an increasing growth rate.
However, all hope is not lost as the commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu stated in summit 2018 “The government will work on promoting the growth of the education sector to help increase the share of the overall service sector in the country’s economy”. He further added, “ the service sector currently contributes about two-thirds of the gross domestic product and we want to increase the share of the sector and the education sector is an important sector in this”. Though the government’s actions have never supported their statements.
This shows the government’s failure, which is responsible for lack of focus —both in implementation and in content—in development agendas on governments’ human rights obligations. Weak government monitoring mechanisms, lack of zero-discrimination policies, lack of accountability for children who drop out of education, and unchecked power wielded by school officials as to who goes to school and who stays out are among the factors contributing to governments’ failures to ensure the right to quality education for children who have traditionally endured discrimination.
Let’s make a comparison between India, a developing country and the USA, a developed country to drive home the point. While India employed ₹94,854 crore for its education budget, the USA allocated $63.2 billion in discretionary funding and supports $129.8 billion in new post secondary grants, loans, and work-study assistance to help an estimated 11.5 million students and their families to pay for college. Simply allocating isn’t enough, segregation into proper channels for effective execution is important as well. While India is seeking an aggressive financial approach, implementation is just important as well.
Since our childhood, we all have been studying about the importance of being educated and Nelson Mandela rightly said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Today’s young minds can be the leaders of tomorrow if provided with knowledge and skills. Their education will be an asset to our country. As we all know poverty is the main hindrance in becoming a developed nation, education can break the shackles of poverty by enabling children to gain the life skills and knowledge needed to cope with today’s challenges. It is strongly linked to concrete improvements in health and nutrition, which improves children’s chances of survival. Focusing more on education will empower children to take an active part in society, exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life. Studies have shown that children who are in school are less likely to have conflicts with law and much less vulnerable to rampant forms of child exploitation, including child labor and trafficking.
The key ways that governments are failing to deliver on core aspects of their right to education obligations include ensuring that primary school education is free and compulsory and that secondary education is progressively free and accessible to all children; reducing costs related to education, such as transport, cost of books; ensuring that schools are free of discrimination, including based on gender, race, and disability; and ensuring schools are free of violence and sexual abuse.
In the end, I would conclude that the governments are paying lesser attention to the education sector owing to its importance in the economy and this is absolutely not justified. Some productive measures must be taken in order to end the education deficit. The basic steps can include ensuring that every child gets quality primary and secondary education regardless of financial and systematic obstacles that many face today. Millions of children work to help their families because the adults do not have appropriate employment and income which forfeits the right of a child’s schooling opportunities. The government must tackle the violations, situations or abuses that keep children away from schools. Strong government systems must be instituted to uphold and fulfill the right to education. Donors, multilateral financial bodies including the World Bank and international agencies that ought to help governments to implement ambitious education plans should recall their responsibilities to uphold human rights standards and not compromise on key abuses that leave children out of school.